The Boston Celtics shot under 40% in the first half. Isaiah Thomas had nothing going on and Evan Turner did not hit a single shot. Avery Bradley was out of the lineup and they went into the break all tied up. By many standards, the Celtics had a disastrous start to the game, but they did everything they needed to do in order to make up for their short comings.
The Celtics had their best quarter of the season in the third. They were finally hitting shots but everything started on the defensive end. They were forcing turnovers, they were picking up the pace of the game and they left the Hawks in the dust. They almost blew their 11 point lead going into the fourth but Thomas and Turner caught fire just in time to seal the deal.
The Celtics shot almost 7% worse than the Hawks but outscored them by a total of 16 points. The difference maker for the Celtics has become the identity of this team. Led by Jae Crowder on the defensive end and Jared Sullinger on the defensive boards, the Celtics created 27 more shot attempts than the Hawks and that ended up being more than enough on a night they yet again struggled to shoot the ball.
The Celtics were far from perfect, still shot a poor 33% from three point range and were without one of the best defensive guards in the league. The Celtics are not letting any excuses get in their way and they let the league know that they are going to be competing in the eastern conference this season.
The Celtics appear to have fixed their starting unit issues and they still have the most productive second unit in the NBA. Led by Kelly Olynyk and Evan Turner, teams will have to deal with a tormenting Celtics second unit all season long. Amir Johnson had his best game of the season on both ends and the Celtics are finally starting to look like a team that will battle for a division title.Nov 13, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (center) celebrates with forward Jae Crowder (99) and forward Amir Johnson (90) during the second half of a game against the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The Celtics’ recipe for success this season has been about defense and second chance opportunities. The Celtics had 12 more offensive rebounds and 7 more steals than the Hawks. The Hawks were the second best team in assists and were the second best in assist to turnover ratio, but the Celtics’ defense was up to the task.
The Celtics had 1 more assist than the Hawks and they had 6 fewer turnovers. The Hawks are one of the best passing offenses in the league and if the Celtics can disrupt them on the offensive end then they will not back down against any team in the NBA.
The Celtics will need to build upon this win with match ups against the Thunder and the Rockets coming up but with Kevin Durant out with an injury and the Rockets struggling, the Hawks were the toughest team in this dreaded three game stretch. The Celtics not only beat the Hawks but they ran away from them in the fourth quarter and they did it with sub par shooting days from Smart, Thomas and Turner. The Celtics let the league know that they are playing good enough basketball to compete with anyone and they are going to be getting a lot better.
The Celtics made a statement when they beat the Wizards but this was a different kind of statement. The Wizards game was an example of what happens when the Celtics are firing on all cylinders. This Hawks game is an example of how the Celtics will stay competitive even when they are struggling.
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Brad Stevens has the Celtics playing inspired basketball and if they continue to generate second chance opportunities and continue to be a league leader in forcing turnovers then they will start to gain some traction in a difficult division race with the Toronto Raptors.